Minority Report: Companies Push For Ubiquitous Iris Scanning
Expiring technology patent insures that you will soon have your eyes scanned everywhere you go
Wednesday, Feb 2nd, 2011
The impending expiration of a key technology patent is paving the way for a scramble amongst scores of biometrics research and development companies, all desperate to make their own brand of iris scanning technology commonplace, effectively creating a real life Minority Report society, where everyone is linked into an identification database.
As detailed in a Bloomberg News report today, the patent for recording the unique characteristics of the Iris as a form of identification was granted to two eye doctors in 1987, who then approached a Cambridge University professor to develop a way of automating iris identification. That further patent was granted in 1994, but it expires this year, opening a door for a slew of technological nightmares to come pouring through.
Leading marketing companies believe that within the next five years, iris recognition technology will create over $2 billion in revenue by becoming a routine part of everyday life.
The technology is already being used for screening employees of Bank of America, travelers at London’s Heathrow Airport and New York City prisoners.
The Department of Homeland Security has tested iris scanners at a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing standards for the technology’s use.
One company, Hoyos Corp., “wants to make the technology ubiquitous,” according to the Bloomberg report. Chief Development Officer Jeff Carter says the company foresees iris scanners on mobile phones and computers, and even on ATMs, to be used as a replacement for bank cards.
Last year the company, then known as Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI), based out of headquarters in New York, announced that it was using the technology to create what it claims will be “the most secure city in the world” in Leon, one of Mexico’s largest cities.
So called “eye swipe” machines, which come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, are to be hooked up to a huge iris database created in conjunction with Leon law enforcement authorities.
Leon is effectively a testing ground for the mass rollout of the technology.
“In the future, whether it’s entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris,” Carter explained to tech website FastCompany.com.
According to the article, “Criminals will automatically be enrolled, their irises scanned once convicted. Law-abiding citizens will have the option to opt-in.”
Yet Carter seems confident that everyone, whether a criminal or not will soon be hooked into the database:
“Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected [to the iris system] within the next 10 years,” he says.
In Carter’s hideous control freak vision of the future, anyone withdrawing cash, paying for items in a store or simply catching a bus will have to stare directly into the beast system while “Police officers will monitor these scans and track the movements of watch-listed individuals.”
Carter even alludes to Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, noting that the system will operate to a degree even more controlling than in the cult classic dystopian story.
Not even the “dead eyeballs” seen in Minority Report could trick the system, he says. “If you’ve been convicted of a crime, in essence, this will act as a digital scarlet letter. If you’re a known shoplifter, for example, you won’t be able to go into a store without being flagged. For others, boarding a plane will be impossible.”
The technology is also evolving rapidly. Newer scanners are able to capture the Iris from a distance of ten feet. “Future devices might read irises from more than 30 feet, said Tim Meyerhoff, North American business development director for Iris ID Systems Inc.,”, another of the 20 or so companies set to push iris scanning into everyday life.
The newest machines are also able to process hundreds of iris scans per minute, meaning they can be used effectively in crowded public places.